In March 2005, the prior Viacom announced plans of looking into splitting the company into two publicly traded companies because of a stagnating stock price and the rivalry between Leslie Moonves and Tom Freston, longtime heads of CBS and MTV Networks respectively. In addition, the company was facing issues after MTV was banned from producing any more Super Bowl halftime shows after the Super Bowl Halftime Show controversy of 2004.
After the departure of Mel Karmazin in 2004, Sumner Redstone, who served as chairman and chief executive officer, decided to split the offices of president and chief operating officer between Moonves and Freston. Redstone was set to retire in the near future, and a split was seen as a creative solution to the matter of replacing him. It was also intended to provide alternative investments that would be more appealing to investors: one a high cash flow, lower growth company that could afford to pay a substantial dividend and the other a growing company that would have greater investment opportunities and therefore would not be expected to pay a dividend.
A new company, the present Viacom, was created and was headed by Freston. It comprises BET Networks, MTV Networks, and Paramount Pictures Corporation.
In June 2005, Viacom announced its purchase of Neopets, a virtual pet website, along with GameTrailers, GoCityKids, and IFILM. That December, Paramount announced it would acquire DreamWorks. All indications were that the whole of DreamWorks—both live-comedy film and TV studios, albeit not the DreamWorks archive (which was sold to a group led by George Soros in March 2006) nor the animated unit (which was not part of the deal)—would remain owned by Viacom, even though CBS acquired Paramount's television studio.
On February 1, 2006, Paramount completed its acquisition of DreamWorks. On April 24, Viacom obtained Xfire. In August, just hours before announcing its most recent quarterly earnings, Viacom announced that it had acquired Atom Entertainment for $200 million. In September, Viacom acquired game developer Harmonix for $175 million.
In February 2007, Viacom ordered leaked copyrighted video clips be taken off the video-sharing service YouTube for copyright reasons. On February 21, Viacom publicly announced they would be offering free online access to their own material through Silicon Valley's distributor Joost.
On May 21, 2007, Viacom entered into a 50–50 joint venture with Indian media company Network 18 to form Viacom 18 which will house Viacom's existing channels in India: MTV, VH1 and Nick as well as Network 18's Bollywood movie business. All future Viacom content for India and new ventures such as a Hindi entertainment channel and a Hindi movie channel would be housed in this joint venture.
On December 19, 2007, Viacom signed a five-year, $500 million contract with Microsoft that included content sharing and advertisement. The deal allowed Microsoft to license many shows from Viacom owned cable television and film studios for use on Xbox Live and MSN. The deal also made Viacom a preferred publisher partner for casual game development and distribution through MSN and Windows. On the advertisement side of the deal, Microsoft's Atlas ad-serving division became the exclusive provider of previously unsold advertising inventory on Viacom owned websites. Also, Microsoft purchased a large amount of advertising on Viacom owned broadcasts and online networks. Finally, Microsoft would also collaborate on promotions and sponsorships for MTV and BET award shows, two Viacom owned cable networks.
On December 4, 2008, Viacom announced layoffs of 850 personnel, or 7% of their workforce. At the end of the year, Time Warner Cable (along with partner Bright House Networks) and Viacom's MTV Networks could not come to terms for the renewal of any Viacom channel beyond the end of year. Time Warner Cable's operations include New York City and Los Angeles, with Bright House including the Tampa Bay and Orlando markets, both top-20 markets. This blackout was narrowly avoided when a zero-hour deal was reached shortly after midnight on January 1, 2009.
On December 7, 2009, Viacom sold its stake in MTV Brasil to Grupo Abril along with rights to the brand. Details on the deal were not disclosed.
In February 2011, Hulu and Viacom announced the return of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report to Hulu, along with shows from the Viacom library. Nickelodeon's shows are not part of this deal. Also that month, Viacom invested in Rainbow S.r.l., an Italian children's animated and consumer products company best known for the Winx Club franchise.
Later, in October 2011, Viacom purchased a majority stake in Bellator Fighting Championships. Spike TV started to air Bellator in 2013, after the rights to the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) library ended in 2012.
On December 1, 2011, the company stopped trading on the New York Stock Exchange and began listing its securities on NASDAQ instead. The stock ticker symbols are the same as that used while the company was on the NYSE.
On July 10, 2012, during contract negotiations over raising carrier rates the U.S. satellite TV provider, DirecTV's executives approached Viacom with a new proposal and a request to continue broadcasting 17 of Viacom's television networks (including Nickelodeon, MTV, Logo, and Comedy Central) during talks, but received no response and thus Viacom ceased transmission to DirecTV's 20 million subscribers. On July 11, in a counter response to DirecTV advising its subscribers to view original programming from the affected networks online, Viacom scaled back access to recent episodes of Viacom-owned program content available to the websites of its networks. Viacom described this as a "temporary slimdown" until a new carriage deal with DirecTV was reached. Viacom and DirecTV reached an agreement on July 20 to return the interrupted programming.
In 2012 CEO Phillip Dauman began to report Viacom's intentions to bundle past programming and make it available on-demand via services like Hulu.
On April 1, 2014, Cable One removed 15 channels owned by Viacom (MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, and TV Land) off after the two companies failed to reach an agreement. Channels were replaced with other networks, including BBC America, Sprout, SundanceTV, IFC, Investigation Discovery, TV One, CMP/TV, National Geographic Channel, and TheBlaze. The change has been deemed permanent.
On May 1, 2014, Viacom announced it had agreed to take over the British broadcaster Channel 5 from Northern & Shell, the media group owned by the British newspaper publisher Richard Desmond. Viacom becomes the first American media company to take over a British broadcaster with a public service remit. The purchase of Channel 5 closed on September 10, 2014.
On October 1, 2014, Suddenlink Communications, removed channels owned by Viacom off after the two companies failed to reach an agreement. Channels were replaced with other networks including Sprout, FXX, Pivot, Uplifting Entertainment, Investigation Discovery, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Women's Entertainment, and TheBlaze.
On August 20, 2016, a settlement between Sumner and Shari Redstone and Philippe Dauman has been reached that will have him resign as chief executive officer and be replaced with Thomas E. Dooley as interim CEO. Dauman will continue to serve as chairman until September 13. On May 25, 2017, Viacom channels returned to Suddenlink after nearly 3 years of absence.
In November 2016, Viacom bought Argentine television network Telefe.
In December 2016, the Viacom board appointed Robert Bakish as acting CEO. His appointment as President and CEO was made permanent on December 12, 2016.
Following the Weinstein effect, Viacom was listed as one of 22 potential buyers that were interested in acquiring The Weinstein Company. They have lost the bid, and on March 1, 2018, it was announced that Maria Contreras-Sweet will acquire all of TWC's assets for $500 million.
In November 2017, Viacom announced the opening of a new digital content division named Viacom Digital Studios. The company has hired former AwesomenessTV chief business officer Kelly Day to lead the studio. Day began her duties on November 20.
In February 2018, Viacom announced their plans to acquire the internet video conference VidCon in an effort to reach out to youth audiences (in a similar way to Viacom's Nickelodeon and MTV channels).
In the same month, Viacom announced that they would launch an official Viacom streaming service in fall 2018, in another effort by Bakish to revitalize the company. This streaming service will support ads (similar to Hulu) and is expected to include TV series from Viacom Media Networks that haven't been available on other services, such as Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. Bakish has stated that the streaming service will serve as a "compliment" to OTT MVPDs, rather than a replacement.
In April 2018, Viacom hosted its first presentation at the annual Digital Content NewFronts, where they announced new original content for sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. They also announced the expansion of VidCon to London in 2019 at the same conference.
On July 25, Viacom announced that it was in talks to acquire AwesomenessTV for a fraction of the company's $650 million valuation in 2016. Two days later on July 27, Viacom officially acquired the company for $25 million. Jordan Levin will leave his position as CEO of AwesomenessTV following the acquisition.
Postponed re-merger with CBS
On September 29, 2016, National Amusements sent a letter to the company and CBS Corporation, encouraging the two companies to merge back into one company. On December 12, the deal was called off.
On January 12, 2018, CNBC reported that Viacom had re-entered talks to merge back into CBS Corporation, after Disney's proposed acquisition of 21st Century Fox assets and the heavy competition from companies such as Netflix and Amazon. Shortly afterward, it was reported that the combined company could be a suitor for acquiring the film studio Lionsgate. Viacom and Lionsgate were both interested in acquiring The Weinstein Company.
On March 30, 2018, CBS made an all-stock offer slightly below Viacom's market value, and insisting that its existing leadership, including long-time chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves, oversee the re-combined company. Viacom rejected the offer as being too low, requesting an increase by $2.8 billion, and requesting that Robert Bakish be maintained as president and COO under Moonves. It was reported these conflicts had resulted from Shari Redstone seeking more control over CBS and its leadership.
Eventually, on May 14, 2018, CBS Corporation sued its and Viacom's parent company National Amusements and accused Shari Redstone of abusing her voting power in the company and forcing a merger that was not supported by it or Viacom. CBS also accused Redstone of discouraging Verizon Communications from acquiring it, which could have been beneficial to its shareholders.
On May 23, Leslie Moonves stated that he considered the Viacom channels to be an "albatross," and while he favors more content for CBS All Access, he believes that there are better deals for CBS than the Viacom deal, such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Lionsgate or Sony Pictures Entertainment. Moonves also considered Bakish a threat because he does not want an ally of Shari Redstone as a board member of the combined company.
On September 9, 2018, Leslie Moonves exited CBS after getting accused by twelve women of sexual assault. National Amusements has agreed to make no proposal of a CBS-Viacom merger for at least two years after the date of the settlement.